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Trip Report Scotland Trip Report: Long Overdue!

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An introduction:
Recently my mom and I decided to do a trip together (we are thinking about going to Ireland) and she has started my new obsession: reading trip reports on Fodor's! So now that I've read a ton of trip reports on Ireland, it has inspired me to write a trip report about my most recent trip to Scotland. I went to Scotland in October 2011, so this is long overdue, with my brother (M) for two weeks (10/4-10/17). We had an amazing time, and I have a ton of information to share with you! It is quite detailed, and you can skip through as you please. The trip was greatly research and planned by M and I went along with it and added things here and there. Feel free to ask me any questions!

Brief daily itinerary:
-October 4/5, 2011 Travel Day: Flight from Baltimore BWI to London Heathrow, London Heathrow to Edinburgh, to Hanover House Hotel in Edinburgh
-October 6, 2011 Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle, Walk down Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral (lunch), Continue down Royal Mile to Holyrood Park, Calton Hill
-October 7, 2011 Edinburgh: Greyfriars Church/Cemetery, Museum of Scotland, Victoria Street (lunch), back to Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat, St. Anthony’s Chapel Ruins
-October 8, 2011 Drive to Oban: Pick up rental car, Drive through the Trossach’s National Park/Loch Lomond, Inverary Castle, Arrive at Dunheanish Guest House in Oban
-October 9, 2011 Isle of Mull & Iona: Ferry to Isle of Mull, Bus tour of Mull, Ferry to Iona, Iona on foot
-October 10, 2011 Loch Ness: Commando Memorial, Urquhart Castle, Drove around to other side of Loch Ness, Falls of Foyer, Castle Stalker on way back to Oban
-October 11, 2011 Drive to Isle of Skye***: Castle Stalker (again because sun was shining), Eilean Donan Castle, Skye Bridge, arrive at Ben Tianavaig in Portree
-October 12, 2011 Exploring Skye, Trotternish Peninsula: Old Man of Storr, Storr Lochs Power Station/Cliffs of Bearrerig Bay, Lealt Falls, Kilt Rock, Duntulm Castle, Flora MacDonald’s grave & monument, Pebble & Coral Beaches, Views of Dunvegan, Drove back to Portree on the B885—magnificent views of the Black Cuillin Hills
-October 13, 2011 Exploring Skye: Talisker Bay, Glen Brittle/Fairy Pools walk, Drive to Elgol
-October 14, 2011 Armadale & Drive to Stirling***: Drive to Sleat Peninsula, Clan Donald Centre, Armadale Castle, Ferry to Mallaig, Glenfinnan Monument/Viaduct, Drive through Glencoe, Arrive at Argyll House in Stirling
-October 15, 2011 Stirling: Stirling Castle, Castle Campbell
-October 16, 2011 St. Andrew's & the Fife Coast: Drive to St. Andrew's, St. Andrew's Castle & Cathedral, The Old Course, Drove down the Fife Coast--stopped in Crail, Anstruther
-October 17, 2011: Stirling to Edinburgh airport, drop off rental car, Edinburgh to London Heathrow, London Heathrow to Baltimore BWI

***We switched our driving routes/itinerary these two days, the driving routes listed are backwards in the following section as we updated it on the fly and I can’t remember what exactly the routes we took were.

Driving routes:
These are the routes we drove to get from place to place and to and from different sites. These are pretty detailed and obviously up for revision based on what you want to do. We used the Philip's Navigator Scotland road atlas (http://www.amazon.com/Philips-Navigator-Scotland-Road-Atlas/dp/0540093297/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1358272237&sr=8-6&keywords=scotland+road+atlas) and found it to be very accurate and M really had no trouble driving the roads. Please keep in mind that this particular version was published in 2008 and there is a recent road atlas published in 2012 (http://www.amazon.com/Philips-Navigator-Scotland-Road-Atlases/dp/1849072043/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358272237&sr=8-1&keywords=scotland+road+atlas). We only got lost a couple times, mostly in the town of Oban. Haha, that place is like a maze! Not very many obvious street signs, some one way narrow streets and even though we studied the map and our host William told us verbal directions a couple times we still ended up getting lost. No big deal though.

Overall, there were hardly any people on the roads (probably more sheep than people!) and when there were it was mostly local people and they usually would just pass on by. They do drive pretty fast, but you have to remember that they see these sites every day so you shouldn't take offense when they pass you! The numbers in parentheses within the directions are the number of miles for that particular step and the page numbers correspond to the atlas we were using (again, the Philip's Navigator Scotland from 2008).

Edinburgh Airport to Oban
- Leave airport, West on A8(1 mile) page 41, or page 56 and page 57
- North on M9 towards Stirling(35) page 41 continued to page 40, or page 56 and page 57
- Exit 10, West on A84 towards Callander(14) page 39, or page 56
- Pass through Doune and Callander page 56
- Turn Left(South) on A821 in Kilmahog(15) page 55
- Pass through Alberfoyle – places for lunch here page 55
- Approaching Braeval, bear right(South) on A81(7) page 55
- Turn Right(West) on A811(Stirling Rd.)(12) page 55
- After passing by Drymen, turn Right to continue on A811 page 55
- Go through 3 roundabouts in Alexandria(places for lunch here too) page 55
- North on A82(16) page 55
- In Tarbet, bear left on A83(48) page 55
- In Inverary, stop at castle, plenty of places for lunch in Inverary page 54
- Pass through Lochgilphead, turn North on A816(35) page 54
- Lots of ancient sites along A816 page 54 and page 53
- Coming into Oban, go around roundabout take Aird’s Place/A85(third rd.) page 62
- Right on Stevenson page 110
- Left on Hill page 110
- Hill st turns Left and becomes Rockfield Rd page 110
- Left on Ardconnel Terrace, Left on Ardconnel Rd. page 110

Oban to Inverness – Around Loch Ness – Back to Oban
- Leave Oban, North on A85, gas station in Dunbeg – Halfway Filling Station(5 miles) page 62
- Approaching Connel, turn Right(North) on A828(29) page 62
- In Portnacroish, stop for pictures of Castle Stalker page 62
- Approaching Ballachulish, pass under Bridge, at roundabout go North on A82 towards Fort William(14) page 63
- In Fort William, at 3rd roundabout, continue North on A82(29 to Ft. Aug.) page 70
- In Spean, after bridge, bear left to continue on A82 page 70
- In Fort Augustus, bear left to continue North on A82(19 to Urquhart) page 71
- In Invermoriston, bear right to continue North on A82 page 71
- Stop at Urquhart Castle(14 to Inverness) page 79
- In Drumnadrochit, bear right to continue North on A82 page 79
- Coming into Inverness A82 is called Glenurquhard Rd. then becomes Tomnahurich St. page 79 and page 110
- Stay straight onto B861(Young St.) page 110
- Left on King St. one block on left is a Tesco page 110
- Cross bridge and make immediate right to go South on B862(Castle Rd.)(8) page 79 and page 110
- In Dores, bear right to go South on B852(13) page 79
- Turn right, rejoin B862 South(10) page 79 and page 71
- In Fort Augustus, turn Left to go South on A82(43) page 71
- South on A828(29) page 63
- South on A85(5) page 62

Oban to Portree
- Leave Oban, North on A85, gas station in Dunbeg – Halfway Filling Station(5 miles) page 62
- Approaching Connel, turn Right(North) on A828(29) page 62
- Approaching Ballachulish, pass under Bridge, at roundabout go North on A82 towards Fort William(14) page 63
- In Fort William, pass through 3 roundabouts, turn Left on A830(West)(43 miles to Mallaig) page 70
- Stop in Glenfinnan for pictures page 70 and page 69
- Arrive in Mallaig(lunch), ferry to Armadale page 69
- Gas stations after arrival in Armadale page 69
- North on A851, stop at Armadale Castle if we feel like it(16) page 69
- Turn left on A87 to Portree(28) page 77 and page 76
- In Portree, 1st roundabout continue on A855(Bridge Rd) page 76
- Bridge Rd become Green Rd, bends 90 degrees Left page 76
- Turn Right on Bosville Terrace, arrive at Ben Tianavaig, 5 Bosville Terrace

Portree to Stirling
- Leave Portree, South on A87(43 miles to Eilean Donan) page 76 to page 78
- Stop at Eilean Donan Castle page 78
- In Invergarry, turn Right to go South on A82(42 ED to A82, 40 to Ballachulish) page 78 to page 79 and back to page 78
- After crossing bridge in Ballachulish, continue South on A82(36) page 63
- In Crianlarich, stay straight onto South A85(16) page 63 and page 64
- In Lochernhead, stay straight onto South A84(20 to Doune) page 64
- In Doune, bear left onto A820(Balkerach St.) page 55 continued onto page 56 (mostly on page 56)
- Balkerach St. becomes Main St. then Ardoch Bank page 56
- Turn Right on Old Military Rd(B824)(4 miles A820 to A9) page 56
- At roundabout, take A9 South(A9 to Stirling 4 miles) page 56
- A9 becomes Henderson Rd, pass through Bridge of Allan page 56 and page 112
- Henderson Rd becomes Airthery Rd. page 56 and page 112
- In Causewayhead, roundabout south on A9(Causewayhead Rd) page 56 and page 112
- 26 Causewayhead Rd – Argyll House page 56 and page 112

Stirling to St. Andrews back to Stirling
- Leave Stirling, turn right on A907, then left on A91(1 mile) page 56
- A91 East to Castle Campbell in Dollar(10) page 56
- In Dollar, turn left on W. Burnside Rd, right on Back Rd, becomes Hillfoots Rd, turn left on Castle Rd to get to Castle Campbell page 56
- Leaving Castle Campbell, Castle Rd., right on Hillfoots, left on Argyll St., become Drum Rd, left on A91 page 56
- A91 East to St. Andrews(39) page 57 to page 58 to page 66 (bottom) to page 67
- In St. Andrews, golf course, castle and cathedral(Explorer’s Pass) bottom of page 68
- Leave St. Andrews South on A917 to Crail(10 miles) bottom of page 68
- A917 to A915(14) top of page 58
- A915 to A911(5) page 58 and page 57
- A911 to A91(16), A91 to Stirling(20) page 57 and page 56

A list of where we stayed:
Edinburgh 10/5 – 10/7
Hanover House Hotel
26 Windsor St
Edinburgh
EH7 5JR

Oban 10/8 – 10/10
Dunheanish Guest House
Ardconnel Rd
Oban, Argyll
PA34 5DW

Portree 10/11 – 10-13
Ben Tianavaig Bed and Breakfast
5 Bosville Terrace
Portree, Isle of Skye
IV51 9DG

Stirling 10/14 – 10/16
Argyll House
26 Causewayhead Rd
Stirling
FK9 5EU

More to come about detailed daily itineraries and general thoughts/comments about the trip!

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    A couple things I forgot to mention: Again, this trip was with my brother and we are both in our 20s and we are both pretty active. We like to get going pretty early in the morning and our days are pretty packed. Our paternal grandparents are both Scottish immigrants, so this trip definitely had a personal connection to both of us. I'm posting the first three days in Edinburgh in this installment, enjoy! Please let me know if you have any questions!

    Daily Itineraries: Edinburgh 10/5-10/7

    October 4/5, 2011
    M and I took off from Baltimore Washington International Airport (BWI) at around 9:20 PM. We flew United Airlines, and overall the flight was fine. They had a curry chicken dish for dinner (nothing fabulous, but edible nonetheless) and I was able to get some sleep. We landed at London Heathrow at 9:35 AM and getting through the airport was a breeze, no issues at all in finding our connecting flight to Edinburgh. Our flight from Heathrow took off at around 11:40 AM and we landed in Edinburgh at 1:00 PM. This flight was a little bumpy as it was a little windy, but I was still able to close my eyes and rest a little more. We took the Airlink bus (we bought a roundtrip ticket for £6)from the airport, which was waiting right outside after we picked up our luggage, to Waverly Station in Edinburgh. Once off the bus, we walked (with our luggage) along Leith to Windsor Street and got to Hanover House Hotel with no problem (and much earlier than expected). We got our luggage up into our room and ran to a Tesco express to grab a snack. We just relaxed for a bit and then went back out. It was raining for a bit and a little windy, but we walked around the New Town area and took some pictures. We decided we wanted Italian for dinner, and we walked right up Leith and found a place called Jolly Ristorante. What a great first meal in Scotland! I got a chicken and shrimp risotto in a tomato and basil sauce, which was very good! Can't remember what M had that evening, but kept track mostly from here on out of what we both ate. We went back to Hanover House to shower and finally go to sleep after a long day of traveling.

    October 6, 2011
    We got up at about 7 AM and got ready for breakfast at 8. Breakfast was huge!!! Jasmine had a full spread and cooked us a full breakfast: cereal, toast, egg, sausage, bacon, mushroom, and tomato. It was fantastic and it kept me full for the whole morning. There weren't many other people staying there so we had the breakfast room mostly to ourselves. So, we ventured out at this point and walked up to North Bridge to Market Street up to Edinburgh Castle. It was POURING rain and very windy (glad I wore my waterproof hiking shoes, even though we were walking around in the city...I just had a feeling I'd be needing waterproof shoes this entire trip). We got there a little early, so we waited in this very touristy gift shop right outside the entrance along with all the others who got there too early and wanted to stay out of the rain. When it opened we went to the information desk and picked up our Explorer's Passes (gets you in to many different sites throughout the country) and went into the castle at about 9:30 AM. We walked all around the castle, it was so interesting and had beautiful views of the city. We went in to most of the buildings inside the castle as it was on and off sunshine and pouring rain. Then we left the castle and walked down Royal Mile, stopping to take lots of pictures along the way. We stopped in St. Giles Cathedral quickly and then continued on walking. We had heard, I think from Rick Steve's or some other type, that having lunch at St. Giles would be well worth it. So we made our way back up to St. Giles Cafe to get lunch, and it lived up to the review! We both got small salads and chicken quiche, and it was great! It was also nice to rest our feet for a few minutes before continuing on, and I believe it had started to rain again. After lunch we continued down the Royal Mile, walked through a small public garden, and when we got to the bottom of the street it started to rain again. We walked around to Holyrood Park, saw great views of the Salisbury Craigs and Arthur's Seat, walked around to the front of Holyrood House. Then we walked up through Regent Road Park to the Royal Terrace to Calton Hill. Went up Calton Hill, even though our feet were very tired at this point, to see the views and the monuments. It was well worth it! Great views, very glad we made the walk up. We could see the black clouds blowing in (again...) so we made our way back down the hill and we were right near Hanover House, which was good because it did start to pour! We came back to rest and have some tea and after we rested we walked back up Leith, came back, walked along London Road, went back down London Road to a Thai Restaurant called Thai Pad and stopped for dinner. We got a prepaid menu, which turned out to be fantastic! I got spring rolls to start and a beef red curry for my main course. M got beer batter shrimp to start and a pork egg noodle dish for his main. After that we came back to Hanover House to relax before going to sleep. The weather today seemed to encompass an entire week--sunshine, partly cloudy, windy, black clouds rolled in, poured rain, and the pattern would repeat at least 5 more times that day. But, we didn't come to Scotland for the weather!

    October 7, 2011
    We got up at about the same time this morning and went down to the same great cooked breakfast--it was very good again! We relaxed in our room for a few minutes and then headed out for the day. We walked Leith to North Bridge to Chambers Street up to the Museum of Scotland. We got there a bit before 10, when it opened, so we walked right across the street to Greyfriars. We walked around the outside of the church and the cemetery, just explored the grounds and took some pictures. There was a really cool view of the castle at the back of the cemetery! We walked back to the museum right around 10 and we decided to do the entire Scottish history wing of the museum (as we happen to be half Scottish ourselves). The museum was fantastic! We both really enjoyed it and we were basically the only ones in the entire wing. I think it covered about five floors or so and we did every single one and then climbed to the rooftop terrace and got some great views of the city and castle. We were pretty "museumed out" by then, it was about 12:15 PM. We left the museum, walked down Candlemaker Row to Grassmarket and Victoria Street. Victoria Street was neat, but it seemed to be a little hyped up in the books I had been reading and I wasn't all that impressed. Nonetheless, we found a neat little place called Howie's (which is a chain, I believe) and decided to stop and eat lunch there. M got the traditional "haggis, neeps, and tatties" to start and a barley risotto for his main. I got a tomato and butterbean soup to start and beer-batter fish and chips for my main. Both were great! I had a very tasty tartar sauce with my main. I tried M's dishes and he tried mine, which became a trend for the trip as he is much more of an adventurous eater than I was! Then we walked through the city to Holyrood Park and on the way I found The Elephant House--THE birth place of Harry Potter! I was ecstatic, because it was totally by accident and it was something that was on my list to find! Once we got to the park we hit the bathrooms and then decided to be adventurous and go for it up Arthur's Seat. It was a pretty hard hike up, we took lots of breaks which was fine because it was just an excuse to take more pictures of the fabulous views! The hike was totally worth it once we got to the very top! It was a partly sunny day, a bit windy and chilly, but beautiful views! We got great pictures, climbed back down and went to the ruins of St. Anthony's Chapel on the way. Walked back to Leith and stopped at a cafe where they had free wi-fi, got a couple pints of beer (M, of course) and I got some tea. We both checked our email and such and just relaxed for a bit. We headed back to Hanover House to relax some more before dinner, both a little sore and tired. After resting for a bit we walked two or three houses down to an Indian restaurant called Classics Restaurant. There weren't many people there, but it was fantastic! We got a feast: popadoms and pickle plate, rice, yellow lentils and spinach, shrimp tikka masala, lamb, and naan bread. It was delicious and very well priced! Back to Hanover House to pack, we leave early in the morning to go pick up the rental car to be on our way to Oban!


    My thoughts on Hanover House Hotel: I greatly enjoyed Hanover House, Jasmine was very welcoming and we had a great room with two twin beds and a queen bed. The bathroom was very large with a full tub and shower head and a very tall ceiling with a skylight. Breakfast was cooked each morning for us and Jasmine chatted with us a bit at random times. Hanover House was a great price for being so centrally located, I definitely recommend it! For dinner, we hardly walked more than a block each night, which was great!

    Here is the link to my pictures of our days in Edinburgh:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2238175593714.2107807.1227720461&type=1&l=6ac7af39d8

    Up next: Oban and around!

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    I am really enjoying this report and am watching for more. I missed my first opportunity at Edinburgh with a family illness and now it seems to be on the backburner. Your pictures looked so wonderful. Thank you!

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    Daily Itineraries: Oban & Around 10/8-10/10

    October 8, 2011
    We ate breakfast early at Hanover House, Jasmine was very accommodating with our schedules/plans, and we checked out at about 8:15 AM. The price per night was £60 for both of us, stayed three nights for a total of £180. We walked to Waverly Station (again with our luggage, but it wasn't too bad of a haul really) and caught the Airlink bus back to the airport with the return portion of our round-trip ticket that we got on the first day. Once back to the airport we picked up the rental car, we got a Vauxhall Insignia. It was much bigger than what we expected, which was probably because we requested an automatic and they had nothing else on the lot. It was a very nice car, similar to a station wagon. We jumped right in and took off (it was raining again...), it was a little hectic and scary leaving the airport but we managed. I think you have to go through a couple traffic circles and then you're on the main highway. We drove up through the Trossachs National Park, all along Loch Lomond, stopped in Aberfoyle and grabbed some sandwhiches for lunch. We stopped along Loch Lomond at a park in Luss to stretch our legs and eat. It was a gray, misty, cloudy, rainy, and cool day which was frustrating because the scenery looked amazing. Hills, mountains, trees, sheep, waterfalls, small towns all along the way. However, it was probably a blessing in disguise that the weather was so gray because we didn't stop as much and that meant we got to Oban at a decent enough time while it was still light out. We also stopped pretty briefly at Inveraray Castle. Very pretty, just walked around outside and the grounds but it was still raining so we made it a quick stop. We arrived in Oban at about 5 PM...we made it to Dunheanish Guest House after a bit of scary navigating, thinking we were lost, realizing we were sitting right below the house, and finally pulling in to a very tight parking area. But, we made it! And in one piece, what a relief!! The drive was a bit nerve-wracking to say the least...driving on the opposite side for the first time on narrow/winding streets in the rain with tour buses barreling past us at ungodly speeds. Props to M for keeping it cool (mostly, haha). Once we got our luggage and such into Dunheanish, we relaxed for a bit and then walked down to the town to get dinner. We went to a highly rated and popular restaurant (according to Trip Advisor), called Cuan Mór. It was a really neat place, I think we both really enjoyed it. I got a glass of Australian Chardonnay and a chicken fajita burger with fries, M got a couple beers and seabass with potato salad. Oh and we had a crab-dip like appetizer to start. I made the mistake of asking for "ketchup" and got the weirdest look from the waitress. I'll never forget that, and then she just giggled and said "Oh, tomato sauce?" Haha! Felt like an idiot...Anyway, we both loved the meals. We walked back UP to Dunheanish, and when I say UP..I really mean UP a big hill. They have free wi-fi here, so we just relaxed and got on the iPad and watched TV. Breakfast tomorrow at 8! William is the nicest/warmest/most welcoming host. He had amazing suggestions and ideas when we told him about our plans over the next few days.

    October 9, 2011
    We got up and got ready for breakfast at 8 AM this morning. Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon! The smoked salmon had a very distinct taste, but I really enjoyed it! I don't think I could eat that every morning for breakfast, but it was a nice change of pace. After breakfast we walked down into the town to the Caledonian-MacBrayne ferry terminal and bought our ferry tickets to the Isle of Mull. We bought a package that included the ferry ticket to Mull, the bus tour on Mull, and another ferry to the Isle of Iona. The ferry left at 9:50, so we had some time to kill. I think we were the youngest people on that ferry ride, sooo many (I mean busloads) of elderly people, and we were also basically the only ones that stayed outside on the ferry ride. It was SO hot inside! It was a smooth ride, we stayed outside on the top deck to take pictures. It was a gray day again, cool and drizzly. It wasn't too bad though, but the scenery would have been that much more spectacular had the sun been shining. We picked up bagged lunches on the ferry and put them in our backpacks. We took SO many pictures just on the ferry ride! When we got to Mull we got right on the bus, I can't recall the name of the bus tour/company we did, but the guide was fantastic!! He was local and he was so funny and interesting, it really made for a great ride through Mull to the next ferry. The bus ride through Mull was awesome--the scenery was just amazing. Water cascading down to streams and lochs, trees and sheep everywhere. The road was very narrow, and many cattle grates to cross in a huge tour bus. I swear the road was just wide enough for the bus wheels and our guide navigated them with ease. I would have been so nervous. We got to the end of Mull, where the next ferry took us to Iona. We walked along a path on Iona (we went past the abbey as that is where the entire group from the ferry was headed), stopped for lunch near some Celtic crosses, helped a sheep escape on our way back (by accident, but apparently this sheep was very good at choosing tourists as victims), and then we finally walked back to the Iona Abbey. I have to say, I was not all that impressed, nothing spectacular inside, but still neat to see. Our explorer's passes got us in. We walked back to the ferry and had some time to kill so we kind of just walked around and took (more) pictures. The ferry took us back to Mull at 3, back on the bus to Craignure port and the ferry at 5 PM back to Oban. Windy and chilly on the ferry ride back to Oban, but we still stayed outside on the upper deck. Once we were back to Oban we walked to the Tesco to get M some beer and a few other things and went back to Dunheanish to relax before choosing a place to go for dinner. We decided on EE USK, a seafood restaurant down in town on the water. I got seared scallops with a spicy tomato rice and vegetables, and it was FANTASTIC!!! Very good!! M got scallops to start and monkfish for his main--he really enjoyed his meal as well! One of the best we've had so far! Back to Dunheanish to relax and go to bed.

    October 10, 2011
    Woke up and got breakfast at 8 and had a lovely chat with William and some other guests. We asked William if he knew of a laundry place and he insisted that he would do our laundry for us and refused any kind of payment for it. We were so grateful! I just needed a few things washed like socks and a pair of jeans. William is so nice, he genuinely cares about his guests! After breakfast we got into the car, after William kindly backed it out of the tight parking area for us, and started driving north in the direction of Inverness. STILL gray and drizzly! We stopped at the Commando Memorial, to make our grandfather proud, and we started to see blue sky from here! We drove up to Loch Ness, drove all along Loch Ness and stopped at Urquhart Castle. Our explorer's passes got us in, and when we got there the sun was shining with just a few clouds in the sky! Beautiful weather, finally, and the castle itself was amazing and beautiful. Huge grounds to explore and walk around as you please, we spent a good hour walking around and taking pictures. I stopped in the gift shop and picked up a few things and we went to the cafe to get some sandwiches to go and got back out on the road. We drove to Inverness and took the Loch Ness Trail (the B862) down the other side of the loch. It was a single track road, but it was fine! There were hardly any cars, I can't even recall seeing more than 2, and there were plenty of pull-offs to let them pass. We stopped at a picnic area to eat lunch, which just happened to be directly across the loch from Urquhart Castle. Hardly anyone out, it was great! Continued driving on, then stopped at Foyers Falls. It was amazing!! They had a pretty rainy season, which only made the falls bigger but it was a great site to see! Definitely worth stopping and making the venture down to see them. The path was a little muddy and slippery in areas, but mostly fine. Continue driving on, saw some of the most spectacular scenery on this drive back! Stopped to take lots of pictures. We finally found the turn off for Castle Stalker, we missed it on the way out because there were no signs on that side of the road and who would think to look back to look for signs? Anyway, we finally found the turnoff for it and there's a little cafe there as well. We got a cup of tea, walked out to see the castle and took some pictures. It was raining again, I think a cloud was hanging over Oban and the immediate surrounding area while we were there. Got back on the road to Oban and got back at to Dunheanish at around 5:30. Our laundry was back in our room for us! Relaxed a bit and walked down the road to Room 9, a small but cute restaurant, for dinner. To start we got carrot and cauliflower soup and fried brie. Very good! Main meals--salmon with crab risotto for M and beer-battered haddock with potatoes and salad for me. It was great! Another fantastic meal in Oban, my haddock melted in my mouth and the tartar sauce was so tasty. The restaurant was very cute--small, quaint and quiet. Back to Dunheanish to pack up and go to bed, getting on the road early to head to Skye tomorrow!!


    My thoughts on Dunheanish Guest House: I don't even know where to start! Our stay here was amazing! William was the nicest host, so warm and inviting with lots to chat about. Our room was great, nice huge bathroom with a towel warmer and it felt like they had heated tile floors. I really am enjoying these ceramic towel warmers, I wish we had them in the states. The views from the house were spectacular! Looking right into the harbor of Oban. We didn't have the best view from our room, but it didn't matter much as we were only in our rooms at night and to sleep. Great breakfast spread, and cooked breakfast as well if you wanted it! Even though the weather was pretty miserable during our time in Oban, it didn't take away from the experience. I would LOVE to go back and stay here and explore more of the Isles around this area and spend some more time in Oban. I highly recommend Dunheanish Guest House, I can't wait to go back there someday! It was probably my favorite place to stay for this trip, with Skye coming in at a very close second.


    Here is the link to my pictures from our days in Oban & Around:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2238234875196.2107808.1227720461&type=1&l=cbff19d912

    Up next: Isle of Skye!

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    Sure! I thought about doing that, but didn't know if it would be confusing as there are different days and such. Sometimes when I was reading others, I would have to scroll up and down to see if I was on the same day or not. I'll do that for the next installments though!

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    Correction--we did NOT fly United to Edinburgh, we flew British Airways. Got my trips mixed up, I flew United to Rome for my study abroad trip (maybe I'll write a trip report on that some day...). Sorry about that!

    Daily Itineraries: Isle of Skye 10/11-10/13

    October 11, 2011
    We had breakfast at 8 and checked out of Dunheanish around 9. The price per night was £72 for the both of us, with a total of £216 for our stay of three nights. We decided to switch our original itinerary and drive to the Eilean Donan castle and cross the Skye Bridge to get to Portree, and leaving Skye we would take the ferry to Mallaig. I'm very excited to see Skye, which is one of the home seats of the MacDonald Clan, which is our family clan. We can trace our heritage to the MacDonald Clan on my grandfather's side of the family.

    The clouds were actually starting to clear up before we left Dunheanish and we saw some beautiful rainbows from the guest house. So of course, I had to go outside and take some pictures before we left. We left Oban to go up towards Ft. William, and we stopped again at Castle Stalker to take more pictures because the sun was shining today! I thought we would get better pictures of the castle in the sun, which we did!

    We continued driving and turned off in Invergary to go to Eilean Donan castle and to get to the Skye Bridge. The castle was great! Wonderful views as it sits right on a loch with views of the Skye Bridge. I really enjoyed it. You couldn't take any pictures inside and the castle was a reenactment of how it would have been in it's prime. I really enjoyed it, but I do understand that some others may not like this type of thing. I thought it gave good visuals for seeing other castle ruins and picturing what life would have been like in a castle. We got lunch in the little cafe--I had a chicken and sweetcorn sandwich, can't remember what M had but we both enjoyed the meals.

    We continued driving on, crossed the Skye bridge, and were finally on the island! We were struck by the scenery as soon as we got there, it was just spectacular. I can't even put into words what it was like. We stopped briefly a few times to take pictures and got to Portree around 3 PM. We walked around a bit and then checked in to Ben Tianavaig B&B. The parking across the street is a little tight and narrow, but Bill helped us out. Charlotte and Bill were very welcoming and showed us around the B&B when we got there. They showed us to our room, told us how to work the bathroom (the shower had a pull to turn it on, and the toilet had some type of shredder...), and asked us what are plans were for that evening. Charlotte told us that we probably wouldn't be able to get into some of the restaurants, as they require reservations and they fill up pretty quickly.

    We walked around a bit more through the town, up to a lookout point above the harbor, back through the town. I stopped in a few shops (picked up a couple books about walks in Skye), we thought about where to go for dinner. We ended up at The Lower Deck, we both got fish and chips. This was probably our most "blah" meal in all of Scotland, we just weren't that impressed. They were quite busy as well and we ended up there as this seemed to be the only place that took walk-ins. We both can't wait to explore the island tomorrow! I've looked through the books I bought and picked out some walks to do during our next couple days here.


    October 12, 2011
    We both slept very well, woke up for breakfast at 8:30. I didn't really feel well once I woke up, perhaps too many cooked breakfasts and eating out? I decided I was going to skip out on a full cooked breakfast that morning, and maybe for a few days. Charlotte had a wonderful spread of fresh fruit, homemade granola, and other type things...so that was what I stuck with! Anyway, we left at about 9 for the road that goes all along the Trotternish Peninsula (the northern peninsula of the Isle of Skye), our plan was just to drive that, stop wherever we wanted, walk wherever we wanted, and just to explore in general.

    First, we stopped to get some really good shots of the Old Man of Storr and then headed to the Storr Lochs Power Station to start the Cliffs of Bearrerig Bay walk, the beaches were known to have dinosaur fossils. The book I got the previous day had very detailed instructions for each walk, and their listings about timing and difficulty level was spot on! Tips such as: you will walk through someones back gate and then find the trail...I'll post the title of it later, my mom is using it right now to plan their trip next fall. Anyway, the book said it was a quite difficult walk with very steep ledges and such. We didn't really believe it at first until we saw them for ourselves...book was not lying. So we decided to take some pictures from the top and then carried on driving north.

    Next we stopped at the Lealt Falls, which was also listed as a walk in the book, but you can stop along the road at the end point of the walk to get some great pictures of the falls which leads to a stream going directly out into the ocean. On to the next stop: Kilt Rock! WOW! The waterfall off of the high cliff was spectacular. Right into the ocean, and did I mention we had BEAUTIFUL weather?! Sun was shining, with just a few puffy clouds here and there. JUST GREAT! I seriously couldn't have asked for a better day on Skye (jinxes self for tomorrow, though). Anyway, back to Kilt Rock...just amazing. The rock itself was a great site to see, it actually looks like a kilt (shocking, I know). Took lots of pictures and walked around the site a bit.

    Got back in the car, headed to the Duntulm Castle Ruins. We stopped here and walked out to the ruins through a sheep field, with plenty of actual sheep and sheep poo on the way too. The ruins were beautiful with sea views all around. We climbed into the grounds even though there was a fence and sign up, but other people were doing the same so why not? Next we stopped at Flora MacDonald's grave and monument and then drove to Dunvegan. We decided we didn't want to go in...so we kept driving to Claigan.

    This was the main goal of mine for the entire day: the Pebble and Coral Beaches walk. We had to walk a bit through a wet field, but when we got there: again...WOW! We had lunch on the Coral Beaches, walked around a bit and took a lot more pictures. The sun and the clouds were making for great landscape pictures. We watched people walk out to the little island across from the beaches at low tide, and then they spent too much time on the island and waded back through the water as the tide came rushing back in. I can only imagine how cold that water felt, but it was entertaining nonetheless to watch them.

    On the drive back to Dunvegan we got some great pictures of the castle, which satisfied our slight craving of seeing it. We then took the B885 that cuts right across the peninsula back to Portree. Got some great views of the Black Cuillin Hills, stopped to take pictures a few times. The scenery on this island, we both just couldn't get enough of it! We got back to Ben Tianavaig at about 4:30 to relax a bit, M was pretty exhausted from driving all day. I walked around the little town a bit more and picked up a few gifts in some of the shops. Charlotte was able to get us a reservation at Harbour View, the restaurant next door for 8 that night! Harbour View lived up to the Trip Advisor reviews, it was fantastic! I had cullen skink to start and roasted sweet potato and spinach risotto. M had cullen skink to start and salmon with leek and spinach risotto. Both of our meals were very good, well worth the wait and the so-so meal we had the night before.


    October 13, 2011
    Got breakfast at 8:30, I think Charlotte knew I wasn't feeling well so she made me a croissant. It was so good--hot, flaky, and buttery! Just ate that and some fruit with cereal. M swore by the vanilla sugar plums that Charlotte had set out, I think he ate them all. We set off in the car and drove to out to Talisker to do the Talisker Bay walk from the book. Very easy walk, it was very pretty. The weather sucks today, gray and misty. Not much of a beach, but the sand was an interesting mixture of black and white. There was a really pretty waterfall off the cliff in the distance right down into the ocean. Like I said, easy walk and good start to our day. I enjoyed it, not sure if M was all that impressed though.

    Then we headed to Glen Brittle to do the Fairy Pools walk. The book says that it takes three hours to do the 4 mile walk and the path is indistinct and boggy in parts. Well, I said to just do the Fairy Pools part of the walk and then walk back to the car park. BUT, M insisted that we do the whole thing. It can't really take 3 hours can it? HA!!!!! Well, we did the whole walk. The book did not lie, once again. It took all of 3 hours, if not more. We were so delusional from hunger and laughing at how stupid we were to do that, but I think we both enjoyed it. The actual Fairy Pools--wow, these are not to miss! Once you get past all the pools, the path DEFINITELY becomes indistinct and you cross a few streams (no bridges, find some stones and wish for the best...), and it definitely becomes boggy and very very wet. We both slipped and fell, got soaked and filthy, and laughed hysterically at each other. Some locals passed by us wearing waist-high waders. They probably thought we were insane, but oh well. We were exhausted when we got back, it ended up being about 2:30. We ate lunch at the car park at a little picnic table, it was freezing and windy and we were both a little grumpy at this point.

    Once we got some food in us and we felt a little better, we decided to do the drive out to Elgol. It was very pretty, but we couldn't see much because of the mist and clouds. There were supposed to be magnificent views of the Cuillin Hills. We drove out to the very end of the road in Elgol and on our way back there were some Highland Cattle that decided to block the road, they were MASSIVE! We were really clueless as to what to do/how to get them to MOVE and we were scared of passing them in case they turned their head and smashed our windows. Did I mention it was a one lane road with a cliff face on the left and a drop off to the right? There was no where for us or them to go, so we ended up inching along behind them. At one point, we caught one itching itself and licking its butt. Didn't even think that could be anatomically possible with an animal that size, ohhh but it was. Pictures to prove it! We were laughing so hard we couldn't even breathe. Anyway, they finally started to move on after a few minutes. We finally got the guts to just drive past them, and they didn't even flinch. Then we hit another group of female cattle going in for milking time and boy were they pissed at us for getting in their way! The were not happy, mooing their displeasure very loudly. We finally made it back to Ben Tianavaig, exhausted and filthy.

    For dinner we walked up (through pitch blackness, bring a flashlight!!) to the Cuillin Hills Brasserie. M had pigeon breast to start and then venison casserole for his main; I had a ribeye steak with potatoes and veg. It was pretty good, we were both so tired that I think anything would have been sufficient. We went back and crashed!



    My thoughts on Ben Tianavaig B&B: This was also a favorite of mine for this trip! Charlotte and Bill were so nice and had so many great tips! Our room was beautiful and the breakfast was great. I would definitely recommend staying here if you are headed to Portree. It was a great location, just around the corner from a Co-Op Grocery and the main little town with shops and restaurants. We had one great weather day and one not-so-great weather day, but you don't go to Scotland for the weather! Overall, I wish we had spent more time in Skye. There were so many more walks that I wanted to do. I also never got to see an otter, so disappointing. This just means I'll have to go back some day!

    The book of walks that I was talking about is called "Isle of Skye 40 Coast and Country Walks" by Paul & Helen Webster. Here is a link from Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Isle-Skye-Country-Pocket-Mountains/dp/0955454883

    Here is the link to my pictures from our days on Isle of Skye:
    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2242510942095.2107897.1227720461&type=1&l=7074fed125

    Up Next: Stirling & Around!

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    What a really interesting and fun trip report! I love your youthful enthusiasm and lovely photos. Our family will be taking a similar trip to Scotland next summer, and I have made note of a few things to include that you have mentioned.

    Looking forward to Stirling!

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    I am glad that you are continuing and thanks for breaking the report into shorter paragraphs! Enjoyed your pictures as well--espcially the night shot of Portree Harbor. The animal licking its, you know, was a riot! You and your brother sound like a hoot travelling together!

    Thanks for sharing your laughs and oops moments!

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    Will try to post the last installment and a few other general thoughts/comments this weekend! The semester just started for me and I haven't had a chance to type up these last few things. Glad everyone is enjoying it! Feel free to ask me any questions if anything comes up. :D

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    Daily Itineraries: Stirling & Around 10/14-10/17

    October 14, 2011
    We got the same breakfast, again very good, and checked out of Ben Tianavaig at about 9. The price per night was £65 for the both of us, with a total of £195 for the three night stay. Again, Charlotte and Bill were absolutely wonderful! We hit the road and headed down to the Sleat Peninsula, where the Clan Donald Centre and Armadale Castle are. We first stopped at the ferry terminal to get our tickets to Mallaig, just in case it ended up filling up.. we didn't want to miss the trip back to the mainland!

    After we got our tickets, we headed to the Centre. I was really excited to do this part of the island as we have some family ties. We first did the museum, which I thought was very interesting. Nothing too elaborate, so it didn't take too much time to go through. Then we walked through the gardens to the ruins of the Armadale Castle. There really wasn't much too the castle, but the grounds/gardens were pretty. If we had more time, we would have done some of the walks in the woods there...but we didn't want to risk missing the ferry.

    We had a little time to kill, so I just wandered through some gift shops down by the ferry terminal. We ate our lunch on the ferry, just sandwiches we had picked up at the Co-op, got to Mallaig at about 1:30. We drove to the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct (yay, Harry Potter fans!!) and continued driving through to Glencoe. We stopped very briefly at the monument and viaduct, it cost money to do the monument so we ended up just climbing up some hill and got a good view of the monument and viaduct. No steam train came through though :(

    Driving through Glencoe was very beautiful, we stopped again very briefly at the Glencoe Visitor Center to get coffee and go to the bathroom. And then we drove on, didn't stop too much through Glencoe because we were worried about it getting dark, and arrived in Stirling at about 5:15. We checked in to Argyll House, run by Joan, and got settled. We walked up the road a little bit to Corrieri's for dinner. I got a spicy penne pasta with homemade garlic bread and can't remember what M had. It was very good, and they had fresh gelatto as well at the counter. We went back to Argyll house to relax, Joan is very nice and gave us lots of maps and suggestions for things to do around the area. She also gave us a menu to fill out for breakfast the next morning, lots of options!


    October 15, 2011
    We are EXHAUSTED! The trip is finally starting to take its toll on our energy levels, and maybe a bit on our attitudes as well (ha!). Anyway, we still got an early start and had breakfast at 8. I had a cheddar cheese omelette and veggie sausage, it was very good! After breakfast, we drove up to Stirling Castle. We got there a bit early, no trouble parking, so we walked around for a bit in the Old Town and headed back to the castle at 9:30 when it opened.

    We walked all around the castle, I thought it was great. They are doing a restoration/reenactment in part of the castle (at least when we were there) and I really enjoyed it. I know that isn't for everyone though. Both M and I were pretty exhausted after this, so we came back to Argyll House and walked up to the Co-Op to get something quick for lunch. We ate lunch back in our room and rested for a bit. I think we have just about had it.

    We decided not to do the Wallace Monument, it wasn't a great day weather-wise. So we decided to drive out to Castle Campbell and we walked around the grounds for a bit. It was a beautiful castle in ruins, with great views of the town below. We came back to Argyll House and tried to decide what to do for dinner. We ended up driving to a little village nearby called Bridge of Allan to go to a pub called the Westerton Arms. I had a burger and M had chicken with whiskey onion sauce. Very good!


    October 16, 2011
    We got breakfast at 8 again and then got into the car to head to St. Andrews. It was a great day--sunny, chilly, a little bit of clouds here and there. We got to St. Andrews at about 9:45 and walked straight to the castle. Explored that a bit, I think we were both a little "castled-out" at this point, so we didn't spend a huge amount of time there. There were lots of children, running around enjoying themselves. Next, we headed to the Cathedral and then walked through the town to the Old Course.

    M is a superintendent of a golf course here in Maryland, and the Old Course was closed to play/open to the public today. I think this was his dream come true. We walked the course, M really was enjoying himself. I walked back to some gift shops and got a few things. After his exploration of the whole course, we hopped back in the car and headed down to the Fife Coast--drove through Crail, then to Anstruther.

    We decided to stop and park in Anstruther and went to the famous fish and chip place down in the harbor. It was great! We got ice cream after and then just walked around the harbor. Got back in the car to head back to Stirling. We were so tired so we relaxed for a little while at Argyll House and then walked to the Birds and Bees for dinner. M got jambalaya and I got enchiladas. It was pretty good, not quite up to the standards here but we enjoyed it nonetheless. The restaurant was really interesting and had a great atmosphere. Back to Argyll House to pack--we leave early in the morning to return the car and catch our flight to London!


    October 17, 2011
    Ah, the journey home begins!!! We are both more than ready to come home and we are both exhausted. We got up early and drove to the airport, dropped off the rental car with no problem at around 9:30 or so. Our flight left Ediburgh at 11:45 AM to arrive in London at 1:15 PM. No issues with the flight, got to London on time.

    We had a three hour layover in London, we just found some lunch/walked around/read to kill the time. Then headed to our gate, where we found a British gymnastics team of about 30 YOUNG girls. M and I were praying they weren't on our flight, but who were we kidding?? OF COURSE they were on our flight!!!! Three rows in front of us, no less. I'll let you all use your imagination to envision how that flight went...........

    Got back to Baltimore at about 8 PM and then made it home!


    My thoughts on Argyll House: Joan was so incredibly nice and helpful and our room was beautiful! The bathroom was a little small, but we were able to manage with no issue. Breakfast each morning was great as well! The only complaint I have, and this was partially our fault, was that it was pretty far away from everything. We chose it because of the price-- £58 for the both of us, with a total of £174 for the three night stay. Everything that was closer in or actually in Stirling was crazy expensive. Overall, it was a good stay though and I recommend it if you don't mind driving to eat or walking a little further.

    Here is the link to my pictures from our days in Stirling & Around: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2242590784091.2107900.1227720461&type=1&l=ddac551641

    I'll post my final thoughts/tips about the trip in a bit! Hope everyone enjoyed the trip report, please feel free to ask me any questions!

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